Saturday, November 15, 2008

Building a website - My experience with Big Electric

Twelve months ago I had simple idea – where can I go to find in-store prices of large appliances in those department stores I like to visit – to finally deploying the website to achieve just that - Big Electric – When every decision is yours to make you learn a lot along the way, so I thought I’d pull together five key things I’ve learnt about developing my own website -

1. Things always take longer than you expect. Plan for it. It’s been a twelve month project from inception to live. In this time I’ve worked with teams from Canada to India, lost a developer mid-project, moved house and changed jobs. Remember to be realistic with timelines, build in plenty of buffer, and stay focused on your original objectives to avoid scope creep.

2. Devil is in the detail. Whether it’s preparing functional specification documents, or briefing overseas teams, ensure you don’t leave anything open to interpretation. Too often I’ve assumed a certain understanding or expectation on how something would function or appear only to find it has been developed differently - not wrong necessarily, but not as expected. To get this fixed costs you time and money. That’s not to say you will always have the answer for everything upfront, which leads me to my next point..

3. Work with specialists. Ensure you work with specialists in their fields, whether it be HTML/CSS, tech or design. Don’t expect that your designer is an expert in CSS, or that your tech team will fill the gaps of those extra pages your designer didn’t cover. Get the right people to do the what they’re good at, in particular with HTML/CSS, which is key to good SEO. It also means these people are more likely to come back with better solutions and offer useful advise along the way.

4. Automation is your trusted sidekick. Running a site day-to-day can include a lot of maintenance and overhead particularly when it’s content heavy. So ensure you build in a good content management system, automated email subscription services, automated ‘recommendation’ engines. Anything you can do to take the strain off those maintenance activities and allow you to focus on more value-adding work will be well worth the upfront work required.

5. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Website development doesn’t end when you hit deploy. Focus on getting the website live within the original scope then iterating. It’s only when the sites live do you start collecting quantitative feedback from your users, where you can start seeing the optimisation opportunities and improvements. Already via Google Analytics I can see the Store Locator is a popular destination, I can also see people reaching product pages direct via Google search results. The next round of updates is already over a page..

I’d love to hear any feedback you have on the site or your own experiences, shoot me an email or leave feedback on this blog.


Janette Toral said...

Hi Glenn. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you can also give some insight on what marketing strategies worked best for your site. Cheers and more power to you!

Glenn Rogers said...

Thanks Janet, certainly the marketing side has it's own set of challenges, will be sure to post my experience.